Window Rock, Ariz. – The Navajo Nation Council last Friday established the Navajo Nation Water Rights Claims Fund by a vote of 61 in favor and 6 opposed.
Navajo Nation Council Speaker Edward T. Begay, who sponsored the resolution, said the measure is part of an ongoing effort to address public concerns about the Navajo Nation’s water rights claims.
“We need to demonstrate that water rights issues are at the top of the priority list for the Navajo government, and one of the ways to do that is legislate special funding for the water issues,” Speaker Begay said.
The resolution mandates an annual appropriation of $2 million to the water rights claim fund. The fund will be used to provide assured funding for the protection of the Nation’s water rights in the States of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico.
“I realize the Council wants to address the water rights issues immediately,” Speaker Begay said. “However, we need to ensure that we attempt to address the issues appropriately at the onset.”
On April 12th, the Council conducted a special session to address water rights. Based on the concerns and recommendations expressed by the Navajo public, the Council issued an “order” that President Kelsey A. Begaye, Speaker Begay, the Department of Justice, Department of Water Resources, the Budget and Finance Committee and the Resources Committee return to the Council to address several issues including the creation of the Water Rights Commission.
On April 19th, the Council adopted enabling legislation for the Navajo Nation Water Rights Commission. The Commission would be charged with prioritizing water rights litigation and protecting the Navajo Nation’s water rights in the Little Colorado River, Colorado River Main Stem, San Juan River in Utah and San Juan River in New Mexico.
Speaker Begay said the establishment of the Commission is only the first step in addressing Navajo water rights.
Other tasks that need to be addressed include: Adopting a plan of operation for the Water Rights Commission, establishing the water rights litigation unit, hiring a Navajo attorney to assist in water rights litigation, funding the water rights commission, and adopting the water rights claim plan for the Navajo Nation.
Delegate J.C. Begay (Red Valley/Cove) urged the Council to adopt the resolution. “The Navajo people asked us to address water rights. This resolution is a response to their concerns and pleas.”
In other actions, the Council:
Deferred a resolution approving a Tribal-State Class III Gaming Compact between the Navajo Nation and the State of New Mexico and appropriating $500,000 from the unappropriated balance of the tribal general funds to be used to establish a Navajo Gaming Regulatory Office to June 3 by a vote of 54 in favor, 7 opposed and three abstained.
Failed to override the President’s veto of Resolution CAP-45-02, which contained the Navajo Nation Council Reapportionment Plan by a vote of 38 in favor, 30 opposed and 1 abstained.
Voted down a resolution appropriating $300,000 from the undesignated, unreserved fund balance to sponsor Race Car Driver Cory Witherill in the 2002 Indy 500 by a vote of 25 in favor, 42 opposed and one abstained.Recalled then deferred the resolution overriding the President’s veto of Resolution CAP-45-02 to June 3, with directives to the Navajo Nation Board of Election Supervisors to present three reapportionment plans by a vote of 48 in favor, 17 opposed and three abstained.
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